It may not look or feel *quite* like spring yet here in New England, but I’m not letting that stop me from getting into spring mode. Spring is here! The snow is almost gone! It’s April tomorrow! I can see the ground again! I missed you, ground. Hip hip, hooray!
And this Barley Risotto with Asparagus, Basil, and Lemon is a delicious way to welcome in the spring. It’s a healthy and satisfying vegetarian (vegan-optional) meal that’s full of bright spring flavors. And, with a super awesome secret trick that cuts the cooking time of the barley in HALF, it’s ready in only 30 minutes, which makes it perfect for an easy weeknight dinner.
BARLEY RISOTTO. Why haven’t I thought of this before? Unlike traditional risotto, which is made with white arborio rice, barley risotto is made with 100% whole grain pearl barley. (Which, by the way, is ridiculously inexpensive, so this meal is also great on a budget). Really, you can make risotto out of any grain you want- brown rice, farro, quinoa… even oats! Who knew?
If you’ve never had risotto before, you are in for a treat. Risotto is a traditional Italian dish that’s made by cooking rice (or, in this case, barley) slowly and gradually in broth. When you begin cooking the rice (usually with a mixture of onions and garlic, and sometimes wine), you add just one cup of broth and allow the liquid to be absorbed, stirring occasionally, before adding more broth. You repeat this process until the rice is cooked and the broth is gone, making sure to keep stirring occasionally throughout the process. The result is a super creamy texture that will knock your socks off. And even though the frequent stirring can be a bit tedious, it is very easy to make, and VERY worth it.
BUT WAIT! Doesn’t barley take like, an hour to cook?
The short answer to this is yes. When cooking barley right out of the bag, it takes about 50 minutes for it to cook fully. But not with this handy dandy trick that cuts the cooking time of barley in half! …